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6 former Fox staffers charged with piracy

Federal inquiry began after Fox's internal probe last year

Internal and external antipiracy probes at Fox have netted six former employees, all charged with conspiring to commit copyright infringement for pirating movies and software from a company computer server, federal prosecutors said Friday.

A federal inquiry began after an internal investigation by Fox, which late last year contacted the Secret Service after finding illegal copies of movies such as “The Matrix Reloaded” and “Daddy Day Care” (Daily Variety, March 17). Software worth more than $121,000 as well as dozens of films owned by Fox and other motion picture studios were pirated, according to Secret Service documents obtained by Daily Variety last March.

Those charged are Lisa Yamamoto, 45, a former message system and services administrator; Kevin Sarna, a former infrastructure consultant at Fox Cable; Jonathan O’Brien, 30, a former network engineer; Christopher Willis, 31, formerly a network engineer; Peter Mariano, 25, formerly a network administrator; and Garry Martin, 32, a former manager of desktop/user support.

All are charged with one count of conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

Were it not for an apparently unrelated earlier breach of the studio’s Internet security in November, Yamamoto might never have surfaced as a suspect, nor would Fox have necessarily discovered that its servers and bandwidth were being used for movie piracy.

In the earlier incident, some 1,800 Fox employees were surprised to receive an anonymous email that contained the names, social security numbers and salaries of hundreds of their co-workers at the FX and Fox Sports cable networks (Daily Variety, Nov. 6).

As a result of that embarrassing leak, Fox Entertainment Group director of corporate security James Chaffee began an investigation. It led to the discovery that a server maintained by Yamamoto and other Fox information technology employees was being used as a “Warez” server. Warez groups are underground Internet communities that compete for high-quality pirated computer software, DVDs and movies.